Third World Quarterly, Vol 21, No 6, pp 917â€“ 929, 2000
Globalization: captors and captive
JAMES H MITTELMAN
ABSTRACT Globalization studies are not really global. Rather, globalization
research mainly centres on, and emanates from, the OECD countries. To begin to
change the balance, it is important to pose a set of pertinent and penetrating
research questions. Animated by theoretical and empirical research undertaken
largely in southeast Asia, these questions call for painstaking analyses of
dominant moral codes, various actorsâ€™ attempts to turn the globalization
scenario to advantage, cultural and political struggles to assert some control
over market forces, and tensions within a framework based on neoliberal values
and policies. The act of capturing establishes a hierarchy between the captor
and the captive. This hierarchy is not a dichotomy, but an ordering of power and
a division of labour. The captors of course seek to remain on top, and the
captured attempt to ascend from the bottom of the heap. Such structural and
dynamic relationships must be contextualized and, today, are integral to the
epochal transformation known as globalization.
Following a year-long series of seminars on globalization, organized by Institut
Kajian Malaysia dan Antarabangsa (IKMAS, or Institute of Malaysian and
International Studies) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (the National University of Malaysia), and with support from the Pok Rafeah Foundation, the
participants decided to undertake a collaborative project on â€˜Capturing Globalizationâ€™. The authors are all afÂŽ liated with IKMAS, and have sought to bring their
different disciplinesâ€”anthropology, economics, history, political science and
sociologyâ€”to bear on a set of common research problems. Fourteen papers were
presented at an IKMAS workshop, held in Bangi, Malaysia in April 1999, made
possible by generous funding from the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung and the
National University of Malaysia. The papers were discussed by fellow authors,
other invited scholars, students and members of civil society.
Whereas the authors express different perspectives on, and advance diverse
interpretations of, globalization, all of their contributions focus on a central
research theme, elaborated in this paper. Although these articles are not about
Malaysia per se, all contributors have carried out research there. Indeed, the
initial drafts of this special issue were written during the 1997â€“ 98 Asian
economic crisis, which provided a backdrop for viewing globalizing processes.
This experience offers an important point of reference, though not the exclusive
or even primary one for the essays that follow.
One of the reasons for undertaking this special issue of Third World Quarterly
is that globalization studies are not really global. For the most part, globalizaJames H Mittelman is at the School of International Service, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue,
NW, Washington, DC 20016â€“ 8017, USA. [email protected]
ISSN 0143-6597 print; 1360-2241 online/00/060917-13 Ã“ 2000 Third World Quarterly
DOI: 10.1080/01436590020011945 917
JAMES H MITTELMAN
tion research has centred on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development countries, not the developing world. An objective of this special
issue, then, is to begin to shift the balance by posing a set of penetrating research
questions, and providing answers to them, if only in a preliminary manner, albeit
one that deepens understanding about the nexus of globalization and development.
Hence, the purpose of this introductory essay is to offer a frame for the
articles that ensue. This frame takes the form both of questions that orient
research and of an elaboration on the implications of these questionsâ€”a prismthrough which one may want to take stock of the major dimensions of
globalization discussed below.
The act of capturing establishes a hierarchy, an ordering of power and a division
of labour, between the captor and the captive. The captors of course seek to stay
on top, and the captured attempt to ascend from the bottom of the heap. This
hierarchy constitutes a range of social relations in which there is some upward
and downward movement, and should not be regarded as a binary distinction.
Such structural forces must be contextualized and, today, are integral to an
epochal transformation known as globalization.
More than a metaphor, the theme of capturing raises questions about largescale historical change, and directs attention to some of the most vexing aspects
of globalization: control, autonomy and agency. To what extent and how is the
set of processes known as globalization being governed? If it is being governed,
or if elements of it are subject to governance, then one would like to knowwhether there is effective management, what strategies are employed, and with
what results. The tasks of control are both manifold and challenging in different
arenas, namely, at the global, regional, national and local levels. Then there are
the matters of deÂŽ ning the criteria of control, identifying who is doing the
deÂŽ ning, and determining which interests are at stake.
The problem in historical context
Whereas globalization has a long lineage, the last three decades of the twentieth
century were a period of rapid structural change. In the 1970s the international
economy consisted of a handful of industrial countries that exported manufactured goods to a multitude of developing countries, which in turn sent abroad
their primary products, mainly agricultural commodities and natural resources.
Following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system of ÂŽ xed exchange rates in
1971, a deep recession began in the USA in 1973, the year of the ÂŽ rst oil shock,
and ramiÂŽ ed widely, initially in the West and then in the socialist and developing
countries. After the Vietnam War there was oversupply in primary commodity
markets and, by the late 1970s, the hopes of a New International Economic
Order, a package of proposals for international reform put forward by leaders
from developing countries, were dashed. Marked by the simultaneous fall of
commodity prices and the rise of real interest rates, the debt crisis of the early
GLOBALIZATION: CAPTORS AND CAPTIVE
1980s emerged. Although the USA was no longer the worldâ€™s major creditor, but
now its chief debtor, it maintained a position altogether different from that of
developing countries, whose balance of payments reÂ ected deep structural
problems. Against this backdrop, the pile-up of large external debts allowed
international creditors and donors to shape macroeconomic policy in many
countries. Since the early 1980s structural adjustment programmes mandated by
international ÂŽ nancial institutions further opened national economies and oriented, or reoriented, development strategies.
Meanwhile, deeply concerned about declining rates of productivity, the
emphasis in the US economy changed from the old Fordist system of mass
production and mass consumption towards post-Fordism, which allows for a
higher degree of specialization, greater Â exibility and faster turnover time. With
the spread of the post-Fordist system, facilitated by new technologies, especially
in transportation and communications, the 1980s witnessed a spatial reorganization of production. While the West and Japan largely moved from capital-intensive towards technologically intensive industries, some developing countries
upgraded their manufacturing industries, initially through labour intensity, and
climbed to a higher position in the global division of labour. This coincided with
a changeover from import substitution policies to export promotion. Centring on
greater integration in the global economy, the Reaganiteâ€“Thatcherite idea of
neoliberalism extended from Anglo-America to other parts of the world, eroding
barriers, relaxing restrictive frameworks for cross-border transactions, and allowing information, goods and labour to Â ow more easily across national
boundaries. Born in Anglo-America, neoliberalism is a culturally speciÂŽ c formula, one that has been extraordinarily mobile and propagated as a purportedly
universal and moral proposition. But it has encountered other visions of social
justice and the good, such as a universal code of human rights and the notion of
â€˜Asian valuesâ€™. After the Cold War, nonetheless, â€˜free marketsâ€™, an ideal and a set of policies,
propounded and monitored by some states, public intellectuals and international
agencies, especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have became an icon
as well as a matter of faith throughout much of the world. Foreign assistance,
loans, credit ratings and foreign investment are conditioned on implementing
neoliberal policies, namely, deregulation, liberalization and privatization.
By the mid-1990s there were signs of danger in emerging markets. Financial
turmoil, the meltdown of stock markets and in some cases (most notably,
Indonesia) political turbulence struck parts of Asia. The contagion of economic
decline threatened other locales: among others, and in different measure, South
Africa, Brazil and Russia. At the turn of the millennium, what had been called
â€˜the Asian crisisâ€™ escalated into a possible generator of global instability. Even
if this crisis is a zigzag, not a complete breakdown, and notwithstanding
apparent recovery in Asia, one can expect periodic ÂŽ nancial crises to be a regular
feature of neoliberal globalization.
Meanwhile, the power component in the new global conÂŽ guration has triggered backlashes. At ÂŽ rst, the impetus for resistance seemed to emanate fromcivil society, which began to scale up and thrust across borders. The ascendance
of capital fragmented the identity of labour, and movements oriented to gender,
JAMES H MITTELMAN
the environment, religion, race and ethnicity asserted themselves singly or in
combination. But backlashes against globalization appeared in other guises,
including the groundswell of right-wing support for populist politicians, such as
Pat Buchanan in the USA, Jean-Marie Le Pen in France and Pauline Hanson of
Australia. Conservatives in the US Congress and renowned neoliberal
economists, including Nobel laureate Milton Friedman and Jeffrey Sachs,
expressed dismay over the workings of the market and the role of international
ÂŽ nancial institutions. While not opposing the market per se, some states, such as
France, resisted the Anglo-American version of neoliberal globalization, instead
maintaining a large public sector and generous welfare provisions while only
partially deregulating and privatizing. In another permutation, Malaysia, after
widely opening its economy to foreign investors during its economic growth
spurt, adopted selective and, as it turned out, temporary capital controls in 1998,
restricting outÂ ows of funds.
At issue in this uncertain period are the interactions between globalizing
structures and a multiplicity of agents. Markets are not only arenas of buyers and
sellers, but also powerful forces increasingly detached from a bounded territory
and with the capacity to discipline the state, evident in structural adjustment
programmes, the ratings (which can make or break a developing economy) given
by credit agencies, such as Moodyâ€™s and Standard and Poors, and attacks by
currency speculators. Increasingly markets are becoming dislodged from social
and political control. Globally, there is no central source of order. No sovereign
power can claim legitimate authority over the world market. Although national
economies continue to serve as important arenas for markets, an upsurge of
transnational Â ows challenges extant authority in this realm. At issue is not
merely what states do to each other, as Realism, the dominant tradition in
International Relations, argues. Neorealists reformulate the problematic by
delimiting it as a matter of how the state adjusts its policies, without giving
credence to the structural transformations under way in the global political
economy (see Waltz, 1999). In fact, diverse contendersâ€”both state and non-state
actorsâ€”seek to capture political and economic power or aspects of it.
Capturing globalization is only partially a matter of state power. Not only may
power be deÂŽ ned in terms of its overt and covert dimensions, but there is a
structural sense of power at multiple levels, which involves both coercion and
consent. It was Antonio Gramsciâ€™s insight that the mix of the two deÂŽ nes
hegemony. From a Gramscian perspective, if consent is predominant over
coercion, then a hegemonic constellation prevails. This is of course more
cost-effective than is the use of brute force, but the question, one that concerned
classical writers such as Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century and Niccolo Machiavelli two centuries later, is: how to use different capacities to ensure compliance
and capture intersubjective understandings? It will be recalled that in Machiavelliâ€™s view of the world as a thoroughly treacherous place, the qualities most
useful to a prince, or that a prince should appear to have, are likened to those
of a centaur: half-man, half-beast. Both require a capacity to know how to
employ them and in what measure:
Thus, you must know that there are two kinds of combat: one with laws, the other
GLOBALIZATION: CAPTORS AND CAPTIVE
with force. The ÂŽ rst is proper to man, the second to beasts; but because the ÂŽ rst is
often not enough, one must have recourse to the second (Machiavelli, 1985: 69)
This is very much a matter of determining what the positions of authority are and
which princeâ€”collective agency writ largeâ€”will hold them.
In the spheres of authority in a globalizing world, the lines of legitimate
authority are blurred. This tendency is especially apparent with regard to licit
and illicit activities. As in Russia, states are sometimes in league with organized
crime, and criminal activities, such as drug trafÂŽ cking, are becoming globalized.
In this realm, there is no neat separation between the captor and the captive, for
novel, complex hierarchical relationships have formed, are Â uid and may
overlap. Moreover, global hierarchies are manifest within regions, but refract
differently from one region to another, and crucial intraregional differences are
To examine these hierarchies, a preliminary task is to identify the globalizers, to
determine who are the sponsors and champions of globalizing processes.
Conversely, one must know who is harmed byâ€”who bears the pain ofâ€”this
parametric transformation. The contributing authors will probe the interactions
among the actors. In addition, lurking behind the identities of these agents lies
the issue of their interests in the overall conÂŽ guration of power relations. This
points to the question of control: who or what are the arbiters of order? While
indicating the array of actors engaged in globalization processes, consideration
is, above all, given to the ways that they are attempting to capture changing
global structuresâ€”to direct or redirect presently disembedded market forcesâ€”and whether they are doing so in a democratic or undemocratic manner. Posing
these questions underlines the importance and urgency of thinking concretely
about agency without being unduly voluntarist about large-scale structural
Working amid the salutary and sordid effects of market-based integration, the
contributors have gained perspective on the trade-offsâ€”the opportunities and
constraintsâ€”in the globalization matrix. The trauma associated with environmental abuses that deeply affect daily life in many countries, large Â uctuations
in the value of national currencies, and the loss of conÂŽ dence in some economies
has animated searching inquiry into underlying causes, both regionally and at a
Thus, the main objective in this special issue is to explain how different
communities try to capture social and political control of the dynamics of
globalization, speciÂŽ cally as they interpenetrate conditions in Southeast Asia and
also on an interregional basis. Whereas many researchers in this ÂŽ eld have
rightly focused on big, abstract structures, it is also important to provide tightly
packed description of globalization as a contested process. The outcome of this
contestation is in no way predetermined but open-ended. Furthermore, the
playing ÂŽ eld is not level; it is tilted in various directions, and ÂŽ rm rules are in
Â ux or lacking. This being the case, one must shift attention to the ways that
JAMES H MITTELMAN
agents seek to maintain or undermine global structures. In globalization research, theories and concepts have largely travelled from the West to other parts
of the world. Indeed, as argued, globalization studies primarily emanate fromWestern intellectual traditions and practice. While considering the extant literature, the authors contributing to this volume will also draw on non-Western
discourses. Whereas this analysis does not purport to offer a fully Â edged
alternative framework for examining globalization, it does bring to bear the
experience of diverse scholars who have carried out extensive research on
non-Western encounters with globalization, and points to new directions
deemed worthy of pursuing.
This undertaking is necessarily interdisciplinary. One of the most promising
features of globalization research is that it helps to overcome the compartmentalization of knowledge and calls for a holistic approach. Time has been the
province of historians; space, the meÂ´tier of geographers. Now, the disciplines of
history and geography are central to understanding world order, and political
economy also requires the expertise of sociology and anthropology. To be sure,
the cultural aspects of globalization involve practices and representations,
matters long treated in the humanistic sciences. Globalization studies thus
bridge diverse ÂŽ elds of investigation.
That said, let me offer a point of departure and reference that others can use
as a target in their own articles. There is a line of thinking that regards
globalization as a compression of time and space (Giddens, 1990; Harvey,
1990; Robertson, 1992). In other words, with new technologies that speed
transactions and shrink distances, both time barriers and spatial constraints are
lessened. Anthony Giddens sees this process as part of the inherent unfolding of
modernity and as a spur towards interconnectedness. Elaborating the concept of
timeâ€“space compression, David Harvey shows the radically different ways that
thinking about, and the representations of, the ordering of time and space have
changed. Both Harvey and Roland Robertson view timeâ€“ space compression as
a cultural force and, for Robertson, it is driven by global consciousness.
Importantly, one must look at the links between this compression and social
relations, for globalizing processes are not socially or politically neutral. Rather,
they are both constitutive of and constitute social relations. Of course, the
argument mounted by these theorists becomes entangled with the debates over
modernity and the postmodern critique. In my view, it is useful to separate
analysis of globalization from any notion that it is necessarily an outcome of a
process such as modernity, as if it had its own laws. To think otherwise runs the
risk of positing an end-point, a teleology (Albrow, 1996: 99). Rather, if
globalization is a contested and a political phenomenon, then it cannot have a
predetermined outcome. A political agenda of inevitability overlooks the fact
that globalization was made by humans and as such can be unmade or remade
Also, if globalization theories offer the advantage of seeing the parts from the
perspective of the whole, and if the whole global political economy has its own
dynamics, then the parts are subject to systemic effects. However, what bears
emphasis is that the system affects the components in very different ways.
Globalization is a partial, not a totalizing, phenomenon. Countries and regions
GLOBALIZATION: CAPTORS AND CAPTIVE
are tethered to some aspects of globalization, but sizable pockets remain largely
removed from it. Globalization contains a dialectic of inclusion and exclusion.
It is worth stressing that globalization is not a single, uniÂŽ ed process, but a set
of interactions that may be best approached from different observation points.
First, it may be seen as a complex of historical processes. The trajectories differ
in various regions of the world, although all are directly or indirectly tied to the
central institutions and growth mechanisms of the world economy. Second,
globalization may be understood as material processes closely related to the
accumulation of capital. It is caught up with the innovations in capitalism,
especially the inner workings of competition, pressures that may be called
hypercompetition. Third, globalization may be regarded as an ideologyâ€”the
neoliberal belief in free markets and faith in the beneÂŽ cial role of competition
(Cox, 1996; Mittelman, 1996a) Hence, globalization is an extensive set of
interactions, dialectically integrating and disintegrating economies, polities and
societies around the world. Capital is in ascendance, while labour and nationalityâ€”the two major identities of the twentieth centuryâ€”are fragmented into
multiple identiÂŽ ers, including gender, religion, race and ethnicity. Furthermore,
the globalization trend offers gains in productivity, technological advances,
higher living standards, more jobs, broader access to consumer products at lower
cost, widespread dissemination of information and knowledge, reductions in
poverty in some parts of the world, and a release from traditional social
hierarchies in many countries. Yet there is a dark side to globalization: the
integration of markets threatens tightly knit communities and sources of solidarity, dilutes local cultures, and portends a loss of control, particularly in very
poor countries. This massive sociohistorical transformation warrants more empirical exploration of, and theoretical precision regarding, its underlying dynamics.
Accordingly, the editors of this special issue have posed four research questions,
though others could be added. The following questions provide a framework of
considerations for critical scrutiny by the authors, each of whom has been asked
to respond to some or all of these issues.
Â· Globalization is rapidly reorganizing peopleâ€™s livelihood and modes of social
existence, but without systematic reÂ ection on the values that undergird this
set of processes. What are these moral codes? Whose ethics are dominant?
What are the results of attempts to balance divergent norms, such as the
commitment to sustained economic growth and equity?
The ÂŽ rst question, or bundle of questions, suggests that globalization is not
merely an economic process, or, to put it differently, that markets are social
institutions encoded with normative claims. In fact, the ethics of globalization
are understudied and have been poorly grasped in the social sciences. Clearly,
there are values associated with neoliberal globalizationâ€”efÂŽ ciency, competitiveness, proÂŽ tability and individualismâ€”which form a normative paradigm923
JAMES H MITTELMAN
based on instrumental rationality, and may be seen as part of a larger attempt to
assert universal truths.
The key to the argument about universals is that, through ideas, humans have
access to truths, a universe that transcends time and space. In this universe,
knowledge is supposed to be generated without recourse to observation. The
logic is pertinent to the realm of numbers (mathematics), beauty as well as the
good (philosophy), and the spirit (religion). Measures of goodness, it is held, can
be brought to bear in this world, the here-and-now, through the ideals of
universal rights and universal principles. When related to public policy, these are
made use of in science and the logic of rational choice in such realms as
environmental economics (Yearley, 1996: 17â€“ 23, 125).
Critics submit that the application of these universal discourses become caught
up with power relations and also may result in silences about some ethical
issues. Consider the period of economic ascendancy in Eastern Asia in the 1980s
and early 1990s. The adoption of free-market principles led to claims that the
â€˜miracleâ€™ of rapid economic growth was related to something different about the
way that Asians organize their societies, markets and states. Various commentators praised the high savings rates, job security, low-cost housing for workers,
emphasis on education, and religious traditions that stress consensus. Whereas
some observers trumpeted the virtues of â€˜Asian valuesâ€™ others celebrated the
alleged fusion of the best practices and values from Asian and Western
civilizations. However, when the economic crisis jolted Asia in 1997, attention
turned to the underside of these same values, namely, crony capitalism, corruption and secrecyâ€”problems that surely are not unique to any region. In Asia,
there were immediate calls for bailouts and other rescue packages, redoubling
the involvement of international ÂŽ nancial institutions in the region.
The World Bank and the IMF play a direct role in the drive to universalize the
values of neoliberal globalization. Responding to debt crises, the Bretton Woods
institutions assist donor countries within a framework that safeguards the
international monetary system. Their assistance is predicated on the obligation
by borrowing countries to meet repayments by increasing export earnings,
attracting foreign investment, decreasing government spending and diminishing
social policy in areas such as health care and education. There is considerable
controversy over whether this formula alleviates or hampers distressed economies, and over how the burden is distributed. An ethical dilemma is apparent in
the types of balances struck between the rise in environmental harm and the drop
in expenditure on environmental management. In this sphere, hard neoclassical
logic brings to light the clash between economic reform and equity. The political
decision to emphasize economic globalization coincides, and seems to collide,
with the changing capacity of the state, especially in its heretofore inability to
protect, or indifference towards, the most marginalized zones of the global
political economy and the poor in other regions.
With the restructuring of the state, the local levelâ€”associations within civil
society, such as families and religious institutionsâ€”is generally deemed to be
most directly involved in ethical development. Indeed, the agents of socialization
are most effective in terms of early childhood experiences, when they shape
affective orientation, the basis for later cognitive learning. At ÂŽ rst blush, it may
GLOBALIZATION: CAPTORS AND CAPTIVE
appear that the globalization scenario is remote from this stage of human
development. New technologies in the computer industry, worldwide ÂŽ nance,
cross-border mergers, transnational corporations, changes in production structures, and institutions such as the IMF and the World Trade Organization (WTO)
all seem removed from what goes on day-to-day in the household. But are they?
If both husband and wife are compelled to join the workforce, if a newproduction system dramatically alters who is at home and who provides
childcare, if the media broadcast new norms directly into the living room, if toys
and clothing, not to mention food, reÂ ect the consumer tastes of other cultures,
it would appear that the impact of globalizationâ€”including its big structures and
heavy processesâ€”on ethics in the earliest years is a matter that must be subject
to close scrutiny. If so, the effects of globalization on ethics may then be
weighed in terms of political accountability, the incidence of poverty and social
Yet it is also important to consider whether globalization opens space for
ethical development, especially in regard to inÂ uences that emanate beyond the
nation-state. The spread of norms across borders takes place through macroregionalism (eg the forum for Asiaâ€“PaciÂŽ c Economic Cooperation) and subregionalism (eg the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, â€˜growth trianglesâ€™ and
â€˜growth polygonsâ€™) as well as from the elaboration of international law as it
adapts to new conditions (eg the globalization of organized crime). In the areas
of human rights, environmental policy and gender, groups within civil society
are advocating that ethical standards be advanced, monitored and safeguarded.
These groups appeal not only to moral sensibilities within the state, but also to
putative universal norms. Globalization is, in fact, establishing new openings for
non-state actorsâ€”what Sassen (1998: 94) calls â€˜new sites of normativityâ€™â€”pressuring the state, transgressing the authority of the state over its citizens, and
thereby eroding the boundaries of jurisdiction deÂŽ ned by the Westphalian
interstate system. In the light of these considerations, one of the challenges
facing the contributing authors is to assess the balances between economic
globalization and social justice.
Â· Inasmuch as communities at various levels are not mere objects of, but agents
in, the globalization scenario, how do they optimize their positions vis-a`-vis
the currents of globalization and attempt to use this trend for their advantage?
If globalization is not a universal that can be examined regardless of time and
place, then interests must be recognized and brought into the analysis. The play
of interest is one factor that sparks off the politics of identity. To the extent that
globalization entails a restructuring at several levels, there are new winners and
losers: neoliberal values and policies are not neutral in terms of social relations,
but set conditions for the interactions between captors and the captive. Hence,
along with the values in the globalization paradigm, the identities of these groups
and subgroupsâ€”identities based on class, gender, religion, race and ethnicityâ€”must be delimited. Although, as noted, there is not a sharp dichotomy between
the captors and the captive, but an array of agents in the hierarchy of globalization, captors and captives are still important markers for trying to determine:
JAMES H MITTELMAN
exactly who are the globalizers, and how do they beneÂŽ t? Conversely, who is
harmed by globalization, and how do these groups react?
To navigate the currents of globalization, various actors develop strategies, by
which I mean the actual ways that people, whose modes of existence (eg through
job loss, encroachment on community lands or threats to cultural integrity) are
altered by new structures, respond in a sustained manner towards achieving
certain objectives. At one level there is the question of how the state is managing
globalization through its policies in the realms of technology, manufacturing,
trade, human resource development, and so on. Clearly, there are major differences in the strategies adopted by states in close proximity to one another within
hierarchical and both global and regional divisions of labour and power.
Cognizant of state policies, ÂŽ rms, of course, must also seek to position themselves strategically in order to capitalize on the opportunities of globalization.
Although there is no uniÂŽ ed strategy, like other actors, corporations have to
adjust to the changing parameters within which they operate.
Innovative strategies speciÂŽ cally crafted to capture globalization, or aspects of
it, are not merely stabs in the dark at an amorphous phenomenon. In civil
society, someâ€”by no means allâ€”groups that are self-organizing have engaged
in self-conscious strategizing about how best to respond to globalizing processes.
While forms of struggle differ, groups adopt varied means to contest, scale up
or down, and link objectively and/or subjectively to their counterparts in other
countries or regions. With sustained access to communication technologies that
construct and maintain communities of like-minded individuals, local movements may become transnational or global, ie networks of activists that coordinate their endeavors in an attempt to harness or at least mitigate the deleterious
effects of the market (Mittelman, 2000: 179â€“ 222).
Â· Insofar as globalization is a multilevel phenomenon, what are the foremost
cultural and political attempts in different contexts to govern the market? With
Many studies (eg Dicken, 1998) centre primarily, though not exclusively, on the
geo-economic dimensions of globalization because of the centrality of markets.
In this literature (eg Strange, 1998), a great deal of attention is paid to
production, ÂŽ nance and trade. At the same time, some globalization researchers
are wary of an imbalance, with emphasis on economics and technology at the
expense of cultural and political globalization. Indeed, if globalization is not a
single but a multilevel phenomenon, one research strategy is to employ a holistic
approach and turn to cultural political economy.
Whereas hypercompetition may be a causal element in the rise of globalization, it is caught up with cultural structures. Just as globalization fosters large
structures in the economy (eg mega mergers) and the polity (eg macro-regions
such as the European Union), it also fragments cultures. Large markets and the
diffusion of new norms erode cultures, in some instances fostering particularities
and contributing to the formation of multiple identities. Hence the fault line in
Canada, surely a precarious entity, is between the Anglophones and Francophones, but within Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and other parts of this
huge expanse, numerous minorities, including very different Amerindian groups,
GLOBALIZATION: CAPTORS AND CAPTIVE
the Acadians in New Brunswick, and the Inuit in the Northwest territoriesâ€”in
the later case leading to the establishment of a new territory, Nunavut, in
1999â€”have clamoured for their â€˜rightsâ€™. This persistent debate is about language, region, race and ethnicity. Additionally, the politics of collective identity
in Canada also touches on redrawing the boundaries of a country (in one
scenario, with English Canada joining the USA) and transforming the political
landscape. This emotionally charged issue poses a deeper question: in the
context of globalization, when the basic units in which peoples have organized
themselves since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 are increasingly porous and
penetrated from without, what is the meaning of â€˜nationâ€™, â€˜countryâ€™, â€˜stateâ€™, and,
by extension, â€˜citizenâ€™? Are there altered meanings, and do the meanings differ
in the part of the world that invented the Westphalian system and in the
postcolonial regions onto which this system was grafted?
To get at these questions, one must grasp the ways that culture becomes an
ordering force in globalization. What is required is to understand how culture
frames meaning so that people form their convictions, establish a sense of
themselves and maintain their solidarities (Geertz, 1998). Cultural globalization
operates both as a top-down process, which is promoted by cultural industries
(various forms of entertainment, ÂŽ lms and television), and as a bottom-up
response to these powerful structures. In Â edgling form, a new politics is
emerging, which manifests as a cultural riposte. Increasingly apparent, to
varying degrees in different places, is the rise of non-state politics. While the
state remains an important arena, in some cases contesting the neoliberal
paradigm (eg France) and in other cases accommodating it (especially the
poorest countries, where an acute loss of control is endemic), non-state politics
is becoming a more salient venue for devising solutions to problems and
fashioning alternatives. Inasmuch as disgruntlement with the state, regardless of
which party holds power, is a widespread phenomenon, reÂ ected in low voter
turnout in some countries and indicated in survey research, people are turning to
a practical politics of another sort: voting with their feet by migrating to a
different locale, participating in the parallel market (often across the border), and
engaging in ethnic politics through family networks which, in the case of the
Chinese diaspora (among others), form a translational division of labour and
capital. There is a multiplicity and divergence of historically contingent ways
that people respond to the tensions generated by globalizing structures.
Â· Are there internal tensions among the processes subsumed under globalization? What are the social limits to a framework based on neoliberal values
Explicit in the discussion thus far is that globalization involves a series of
interactions among the economic, political and cultural spheres of life. It also
appears in diverse sizes and shapes in different regions. When globalizing
structures meet local conditions, myriad combinations are formed. True, in
certain respects global capitalism is a national phenomenon, but national political economies are in very different positions, some more or less open, dynamic
and vulnerable to captivity than are others. Indeed, it is important to note the
disparate ways that capitalism is organized in various regions and countries
JAMES H MITTELMAN
today; however, the proposition that globalizing forces promote diversity, not
homogeneity, does not invalidate the globalization scenario. Rather, by historicizing the construct, researchers help to reÂŽ ne it.
Inasmuch as globalization is not a uniform structure, one must attempt to
interrelate the levels of analysis. I will turn brieÂ y to two sets of interactions:
politics and economics, and economics and culture (points elaborated in Mittleman, 2000: especially 223â€“ 249).
The ÂŽ rst tension surrounds the issue of accountability. The easing of borders
as a result of deregulation and the consequent surge of capital Â ows from other
economies, large-scale transfers of population from some parts of the world to
others, the increase in mergers and mega acquisitions, instantaneous movements
of ÂŽ nance through electronic space, and growing concentrations of capital are all
part of the trend whereby the economy becomes disembedded from society, a
pattern noted by Karl Polanyi over 50 years ago (Polanyi, 1957, originally
published 1944). Flows of capital and labour take place at a horizontal level
within the world economy and are only partially susceptible to control by
sovereign units. Politically, the globe is organized into vertical compartments
that attempt to capture these transactions. State institutions with territorial scope,
such as central banks, are unable to exercise extraterritorial authorityâ€”say, over
the foreign currency market, now a $1.5 trillion-a-day business. State-sanctioned
agencies supposed to hold a legitimate monopoly to enforce compliance over
their own domain appear to be stymied by increasing deterritorialization in
matters of economic governance. Meanwhile, with globalization, pro-democracy
forces in many parts of the world are pressing their political leaders for greater
accountability within the nation-state, but accountability in the global economy
is elusive and thus far exceeds the grasp of these forces.
Like pro-democracy forces, other advocacy groupsâ€”varied social movementsâ€”are also trying to open political space. Just as some of them want to
build larger solidarities across borders, other groups, often those most threatened
by globalizing trends, are atavistic and seek to preserve, or imagine, local and
particularistic identities, as is the case with right-wing militias in the USA and
anti-immigrant groups from Scandinavia to South Africa. Whereas some wings
of civil society attempt to capture parts of the mega phenomenon known as
globalization, others are actually sponsored by its purveyors (large corporations,
international ÂŽ nancial institutions, state-run bilateral agencies, etc) or even hold
pivotal positions of state power, as in the Philippines and South Africa today,
which perhaps is one form of capturing globalization, inasmuch as a dependent
state is tied to social forces partly rooted outside the national domain. However,
this in turn raises both tactical and ethical dilemmas about the proper role of civil
society and whether it is being co-opted and becoming corrupt. Certainly, civil
society is riddled with internal tensions.
Civil society has became an important element in the globalization matrix
precisely because of a tension between a deterritorialized economy and national
culture. Commanding new technologies, the entertainment industry, led by US
ÂŽ rms, is beaming programmes and ÂŽ lms on to screens around the world.
Accompanying the movies, serials, sporting events and newscasts are distinct
values, such as individualism and consumerism. Of course, other industries are
GLOBALIZATION: CAPTORS AND CAPTIVE
hard at work, and draw immigrants to overseas operations, exposing them to newvalues, which are later transported back to the home countries when the
returnees visit there or resettle. Both the entertainment industry and the labour
market are modalities whereby a globalizing economy undercuts national and
local ways of life, in some cases helping to ease indigenous forms of social
control (eg patriarchy), but often at the expense of cultural dignity.
Embracing a neoliberal framework of liberalization, deregulation and privatization, the globalization paradigm clearly offers beneÂŽ ts to all who would
partake in this process, but in an uneven manner. The higher the level of
globalization, the greater the degree of polarization. Put differently, there are rips
and tears in the fabric of globalization. Enclaves of poverty within the wealthy
countries and a multitude of impoverished countries, except for their upper
strata, most apparent in, but not unique to, Africa, fall into the breach. At the
same time, the neoliberal formula prescribes delinking economic reform fromsocial policy, which places a greater burden on women, the primary care givers
and users of health facilities. By all indications, globalization and marginalization are two sides of the same coin. If so, one must consider whether globalization is ethically sustainable.
The preceding discussion has provided a prism for viewing the issues, concepts
and considerations that guide the articles in this special issue. The four questions
posed for the authors to explore bind the individual essays. In addition, I have
formulated speciÂŽ c questions within these questions, to be revisited in the works
The special issue is thus organized around four aspects of globalization, and
responses to the research questions framed above are threaded through corresponding clusters of essays. Following this introduction and that by Clive
Kessler, who offers a broad comparative and historical overview of the norms
inscribed in globalization, are two pieces on market forces: Rajah Rasiah
examines private capital Â ows across borders, and Ishak Shari probes povertygenerating structures. Next, Sabihah Osman explores the ways in which political
life is being redeÂŽ ned under globalization: the changing role of the state and
democratization, with reference to the indigenous people of Sarawak, Malaysia.
Finally, attention turns to the sociocultural dimensions of globalizationâ€”Abdul
Rahman Embong on the nexus of translational class relations and globalization,
and Sumit K Mandal regarding disruptions in culture and new patterns in the use
of languagesâ€”before Norani Othman and Clive Kessler present conclusions
about whether any group, or which groups, are capturing globalization, and the
riposte from those held captive.
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